Isabel Wilkerson’s ‘Caste’ on National Book Awards longlist

September 17, 2020 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste,” her acclaimed study of racism in the United States, is among 10 nominees on the National Book Award longlist for nonfiction. The poetry list features works by Natalie Diaz and Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, whose “Travesty Generator” features elegies to such victims of vigilante and police violence as Emmett Till, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin.

The National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, announced the two lists Thursday after revealing the young people’s literature and translation nominees the day before. The fiction longlist comes out Friday.


Wilkerson’s book has been among the year’s most talked about works, especially after Oprah Winfrey chose it this summer for her book club. “Caste” is Wilkerson’s first publication in a decade, after the prize-winning “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a history of Black migration from the South in the 20th century.

Several nonfiction nominees center on race and social justice, including Les Payne’s and Tamara Payne’s “The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X,” Frank B. Wilkerson III’s “Afropessimism,” Jerald Walker’s “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays” and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s “The Undocumented Americans.”

The other nonfiction books were Jill Lepore’s “If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future,” Michelle Bowdler’s “Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto,” Claudio Saunt’s “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory,” Jenn Shapland’s “My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir” and Jonathan C. Slaght’s “Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl.”

In poetry, Diaz was nominated for “Postcolonial Love Poem,” Rick Barot for “The Galleons” and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge for “A Treatise on Stars.” The longlist also featured a pair of debut collections, Tommye Blount’s “Fantasia for the Man in Blue,” a meditation on police violence against Blacks, and Anthony Cody’s “Borderland Apocrypha,” a history of life at the U.S.-Mexico border. Other nominees were Victoria Chang’s “Obit,” Don Mee Choi’s “DMZ Colony,” Eduardo C. Corral’s “Guillotine” and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s “The Age of Phillis.”

The five competitive categories will be narrowed to lists of five on Oct. 6. Winners will be announced Nov. 18.